Well there we go, it happened.
It’s pointless trying to defend the undefendable – clearly Magath was not fit for purpose – but as with most recent Fulham decisions, the timing is iffy.
Honestly, you decide after an away defeat to the top of the table team that enough is enough?
Never mind. It’s a long season and there’s plenty of petrol left in the tank.
Whatever the manager’s merits, at some point you have to take supporter sentiment into account. Tension, anger and frustration have a way of finding their way onto the pitch. The players needed room to breathe. Magath had to go, for every reason.
In some ways the next manager walks into a reasonable position. Magath has done a lot of the dirty work in overhauling the relegation squad. Now, we might not like what he did after he’d overhauled it, but it was a big job and he ploughed through it with some (too much?) gusto.
The new manager also inherits a team that is, if not in a false position, then at least in a position from which we might reasonably expect a significant rebound. It’s the sort of role Harry Redknapp would have loved, jumping into a superficially sinking ship and saving it through the power of regression to the mean.
The players are okay, too. If not all of them are to the new man’s liking, at least there aren’t that many of them and they are mainly quite young. The only glaring personnel problem Magath has left behind is the absence of a goalkeeper, with two kids and Gabor Kiraly fighting for the no.1 jersey. It’s a battle in which nobody wins really, and the folly of letting David Stockdale go seems even worse with hindsight. We don’t know the details but it feels like an idiotic thing to have done, a transaction that might have been vetoed in a less dysfunctional organisation.
Those players that remain are hard to judge, looking fairly bewildered at their predicament. If the new manager picks the first team on merit then he has some dazzling attacking talent to draw on. If he can organise the defence, too, Fulham should be a reasonably good team quite quickly.
Magath feels like the closing of a particularly ridiculous phase in Fulham’s history. The ineptness of the Jol era, the Meulensteen/Curbishley/Wilkins fiasco, then Felix Magath… a long-running comedy of cock-ups. We could say that the next appointment is crucial, but it’s not just that. Looking back, the club’s approach to recruitment has veered all over the place in recent years, with each manager emphasising different types from different regions. Where is the overall direction here? Have the board ceded too much control to too many people?
It feels that way. And for an industry where so much money is flying around, the decision making has often been bewildering. We’ve mentioned Stockdale, but seeing Kasami and Mitroglou having some Champions League success more or less sums up what an absolute shambles Fulham have become. Good enough for the highest level of football, but not for Fulham? And our friend Bryan Ruiz, who had such a fine World Cup, can’t get a game in the Championship. Riiight. These are not the decisions of a club working effectively.
The other stuff – the bewildering team selections, the harsh substitutions, the dropping of players, these might not be optimal management but they’re all things that a manager can reasonably do. The big decisions though, there should be some sort of high level control here. You can’t just walk into a club and act with a free hand; it shouldn’t work that way. Everyone here has a lot of questions to answer. If this were English cricket there’d be an enquiry into prolonged poor performance. I’m sure Mr Khan’s businesses would do the same if one went badly wrong over a sustained period of time, made a series of bad decisions. It’s time for Fulham FC to have a good look in the mirror and decide what it wants to be. Are we blitzing the Championship on the back of mega-spending? Are we coaxing the youth team into a machine for the future? Whatever is decided the fans need to understand the message and need to be on-board with it. The latter is easier said than done, but fans will respond to things being done in what might be called “the right way.” This was always Magath’s problem: he did things badly and unconventionally, and fans never did quite work him out. Fulham can’t afford a repeat of this, so while a track record of some sort is obviously important, the intangibles are not to be overlooked either. Danny Murphy joining the existing temporary setup might make more sense than we think.
We won’t go down. We probably won’t go up. But at least now we can look forward to some kind of coherence about the club. This ought to have been a terrific season, where the kids got their chances and where we didn’t just turn up against the super-rich teams for a hiding. It’s not too late, though. Fulham have done the right thing for the first time in a long time. Let’s see what happens next.